Victoria Derbyshire axe: the right decision?

Any decision to axe a high profile programme will provoke debate or even an outcry. On the face of it news the Victoria Derbyshire show is ending seems a routine decision. Ultimately the headline ratings are low and the BBC needs to find savings.

On a good day, the programme gets 200,000 viewers on BBC Two plus – perhaps – another 100,000 – 150,000 on the BBC News Channel. The BBC Two rating is often exceeded by Jeremy Vine on Channel 5 and dwarfed by the numbers watching BBC One or ITV.

Nobody disputes that Victoria Derbyshire is an excellent presenter or that the programme’s original journalism covers topics other BBC News outlets don’t generally look at. In short, the programme can help give a voice to those whose voices can go unheard and that is why some have expressed a very genuine concern about its planned demise.

Yes, axing it is a shame but the BBC needs to save money. As the BBC’s media editor Amol Rajan has noted, the place where the programme connects with the people the BBC can find hard to reach is online.

Given the ratings then you might think axing the show is a no-brainer. The important thing is that the original journalism should continue and get an outlet. BBC Two in the morning was probably the worst possible place in mainstream TV to try to reach those who don’t connect with the BBC generally.

Might a way be found to save this show at the expense of something else? A transfer to BBC One with some of the budget met by BBC Daytime springs to mind. BBC One’s morning schedule overall gets slightly more viewers than ITV’s but it can be criticised for a lack of topicality. The whole schedule from 9.15am to 1pm can seem a bit predictable.

Would a transfer to BBC One, even experimentally, have led to the show getting a more sustainable number of viewers – and reaching more of the elusive viewers BBC News finds hard to reach?

Sometimes planned cuts are made public to test the reaction. BBC Radio 6 Music was saved after an outcry. On this occasion, news of the impending axing emerged via a newspaper and caused howls of Westminster protest.

The bad PR it is generating is disproportionate to the audience but the loss of an outlet for unheard stories is a genuine worry. Do not be completely surprised if a way is found to save it, at least partially, even if that results in a casualty elsewhere.



PICTURED: Victoria Derbyshire titles. SUPPLIED BY: The TV Room. COPYRIGHT: BBC.

Posted by Andrew Nairn

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